While we at WWWtW do not agree about everything, one thing we do agree about is the legitimacy and even the importance of being countercultural in various ways. As a home schooler, I believe that one of the most important ways of being countercultural is in quite literally not accepting some of the conditions the world places upon us.
I realize that this "not accepting the world" phrase is vague, and there's probably no way around that, but let me give you an example of what I mean:
A few months back I got a copy of Focus on the Family's little magazine that they send to all the people in the country who have ever written to them. It had an entire article on how to tell if your daughter is secretly engaging in obsessive-compulsive self-mutilation such as cutting herself with knives, poking herself with pins, and so forth. Well, okay, the article was also about how to tell if your child is on drugs. It was about "self-destructive behaviors." But the cutting stuff was what really struck me.
Let me venture a conjecture. This literally insane behavior is a trend, a trope, a thing ordinary kids don't do if they don't hear about other people doing it but that slightly unbalanced adolescent and college-age girls are doing now because some of their friends do it, which creates a snowball effect. I'm not that old, and kids certainly did engage do self-destructive things--drugs, underage drinking, and premarital sex--when I was young. (At least these bad behaviors are expected to be associated with some degree of physical pleasure!) But I never so much as heard of any girl, disturbed or normal, nerd or athlete, outcast or popular, ugly or pretty, cutting herself with knives and poking herself with pins. What is this nonsense?
The first intimation I had that there was any such thing in American culture was when a college professor acquaintance wrote to me some five years ago and mentioned that two of his female students were addicted to "cutting" and wanted help to stop. Then another college professor friend mentioned the same thing about some of his female students. But I still didn't know it was widespread until I read this FOF article and saw that it must be a "thing" these days. The article quoted one girl as saying that she had a friend who was "into cutting" and wanted to know how to help her. So call me behind the eight-ball. Maybe some of my readers can tell me how long this has been going on. But mark my words: Twenty years ago it was not anywhere near widespread enough for a Christian parenting magazine to bother giving parents advice about it.
Now, what I mean by "not accepting the world" in the context of this "cutting" nonsense is, quite simply, keeping your young girls sufficiently sheltered, happy, and healthy that they either never hear of anyone's doing this or that, if they did, they would take the entirely normal-person attitude and say, "Yeeeech! Why would anybody do that?!" And they don't run around with friends who do it. Sure, they have their adolescent ups and downs (at least when they're adolescents). But not going to school means that there is no social group they know of in which people do such horrible stuff, so they just never hear of it or think it's gross if they should happen to hear of it, as of some foreign and disgusting thing done by people in another culture far away.
Am I blaming Focus on the Family for talking about it? Not really, though I must admit that I feel a little strange about having to hide Focus on the Family's magazine from my eight-year-old and wishing even my older girl hadn't picked it up off the counter! But I am saying that it's become increasingly obvious to me over the past few years of browsing that FOF is pitching to an audience of schooling parents--even parents whose kids are going to public schools--whose children are immersed, as far as social environment, in some extremely bad stuff and who are then frantically running around trying to do damage control.
Another instance of this audience oddity was the article in the same magazine about the HPV vaccine. This particular article pretty much promoted the vaccine, and it did not make a great secret of the fact that some sort of sexual interaction (even if not full intercourse) was only to be expected among the early adolescent children of its audience members. Some of the medical information was questionable as well, as the article implied that there is decisive evidence that girls vaccinated around age 11 are then better protected against the virus throughout life than girls who are not vaccinated, retain their virginity, and get vaccinated later, if necessary (if their fiance has not previously been chaste), shortly before marriage.
I had a discussion of the medical issues here, and though at first it appeared that I had missed some real evidence to this effect, in the end it turned out that this "better protection throughout life if vaccinated in childhood" claim rested on a) a study that wasn't (as far as I could ascertain) documented to have controlled for sexual activity, so that the weaker effect in the older women might have been a result of previous exposure to the virus and b) conjecture based on the fact that children tend to have especially strong immune responses to vaccinations. None of this addressed the very real possibility that any effect of the vaccination given to a child--however robust--would have worn off in the ten or more years before a girl was actually getting married. Nor did it address the extreme oddity of vaccinating children for a virus to which they may never be exposed, solely on the grounds that children have a more robust immune response to vaccinations than adults. Do we vaccinate all American children against tropical diseases on the grounds that they may someday visit the tropics?
They can say what they like about how Christian parents with chaste teens should consider giving a vaccine for a venereal disease to their minor girls, but it is patently obvious to me that we would not be discussing this vaccine at all if sexual promiscuity of some kind were not expected in girls ages 12 and up. And I don't accept that, either. Because I don't accept the world.
The moral here is that we parents need to stop being so helpless. No, we can't control everything. But instead of immersing our kids in every manner of junk and filth and then wringing our hands, we can just say "no" to their being exposed to some things. And that's the kind of counterculturalism that will prevent a lot of heartbreak and a lot of misery.